The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Egg laying in our flock of chickens


Photo: French egg cupboard with eggs from our flock

Photo: French egg cupboard with eggs from our flock

Zebedee our youngest hen hatched on May 20th last year. The day that Mrs Squeaky Clean died – super clean heroine of all things white. A Garbo of the chicken world.  We loved Mrs Squeaky and it was a shock when she died.

The arrival of the new chicks salved the grief and Zeb has grown to be a beautiful back hen. Elegant yet happy to scratch in the mud. She been laying sporadically since the middle of January. Her eggs are creamy coloured with a very pointy end. Hope, the little black and white Wynadotte hen has being laying too. Hope was one of a pair of hens that The Chicken Lady and S gave us a couple of Christmases ago. A wonderful surprise present. Hope lays white eggs which are almost all yolk and perfect softly boiled or poached for breakfast.

Today I found two fresh eggs in the nesting box that did not belong to Hope or Zebedee. Bottom row in the egg cupboard – the giant brown egg is definitely one of Carol’s. She will be seven this year. Carol, a standard sized Maran hen, presented us with a large brown egg most days between February and October last year. This egg is twice the size of a normal Carol egg – perhaps it’s a double yoker?

The other egg is from Thumper, one of the ginger hybrids. It doesn’t take long to work out which hen lays which egg as they are all subtly individual. The gingers are heading for their eighth summer. For the first three years they laid very well and this has gradually trailed off to an occasional egg every now and then. They are so old that their feathers have turned from ginger to a soft apricot. They are pets so they will live here for the rest of their lives. An extra egg every now and then is a bonus. Incidentally did you know that a hen’s eggs get bigger the older she is?

Last year I was given a sturdy crate that had housed slate tiles for a kitchen floor. With a bit of planning this can be transformed into a new chicken house. The local builder’s merchant cuts wood to size, so if I do my maths well, it will just be a question of hammering the walls into place, fitting a perch and a making a nesting box. It does need a hinged door and a hinged roof on the nesting box. I can copy these from the existing chicken house. I love this sort of project and enjoy working with wood. Hen houses are expensive in the UK. I can’t wait to be fit enough to start building my own.

Just before Christmas I sold an old leather cartridge case to a friend – apparently these are extremely popular with the shooting brigade. The proceeds have been saved to be invested in some new hens. Needless to say all these hens will share the same surname to celebrate the sale. It could only really be Case. It will be great fun making up the names. I feel a competition stirring!

I’m not sure what breed we will choose. We will probably stick to bantam breeds as the eggs are yolk heavy and they are not often available in the shops. Also bantams take up far less space in the run. The new hen house could comfortably house 6 – 8 bantams but only three Marans.

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been keeping chickens for eight years this summer. I can’t wait to get the new flock of six Miss Cases – our chickens are a source of constant fun and pleasure. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen garden where their run is located. Chicken lives are complex and packed with daily dramas.

I don’t know how I’ve managed this but if a fight breaks out I just need to step into the run and it stops, the perpetrators look embarrassed and fizzle away. Perhaps they recognise the daemon hen in me.

  Leave a reply


  1. Emergency! That is the name of the other Russian relative! I knew there were triplets not just twins. Rain, Fire and Emergency. The Incaseov girls.

  2. Barbara

    How about the polite Civil Case, and Criminal Case, the vandal?

  3. ChickPea

    ooops…… apologies for the typo, Fiona……
    (Guess I’ll be ChuckPie or something similar henceforth….)

  4. ChickPea

    Your blog continues to inspire, amaze, amuse and inform us, Foiona – Thank You.
    What a great choice of names – to which I add ‘Casement’ and ‘Caseoulay’ (ouch !)

  5. Well now if one of your chickens had a slight mean streak they could be called hard or if they were the soft fluffy type how about pillow? On the other hand a chicken with a spring in it’s step may favour the name stair!

  6. I’m in the process of a renovation project. When it’s finished next year, I will have room for chicken, yipee!

    Reading this blog post has made me really chuckle!

  7. gillian

    I’ll have to pass this name game onto my father, he’s excellent at it 🙂 About a month after our hens started laying last summer we had about six weeks of double and triple egg yolks from one of our girls every day. You could always tell because they were long and skinny. But so weird…. That one you have is HUGE! Have you cracked it open yet?

    Does anyone else have photos of their coops? I’d love to see them, Our first (we’ve had two at different houses) we built out of an old fence and recycled screening. My Husband is an architect so the second time around he got a little carried away. Although still out of recycled and scrap wood and metal.
    I love looking at different coop styles.I’m a chicken dork.

  8. What about charity case?

  9. 10 point and sans serif

  10. Cookie Girl

    I have ‘carcase’ and ‘fracase’ to add to the mix. Carcase to be given to the scruffiest, skinninest of all – the one that looks most well, like a carcase …ew! and fracase to the ‘naughtiest’ and most likely to cause a …. fracase !
    I would LOVE to have chickens. A recent funny moment was when a chicken ran into a neighbour’s house (in France) into the lounge, trying to get the chicken out took quite some time.. and not much fun for the chicken.. Happy naming Fiona, this is FUN!

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